HYDERABAD: Kinaaya, a Bengaluru-based theatre collective, will be showcasing Ishtihaar for the first time in Hyderabad. The show aims to present a light-hearted version of Manto, who is typically associated with serious issues such as partition and sexuality.
“Kinaaya is an Arabic word that means ‘metaphor.’ It was founded in 2021 with the intention of collaborating with various theatre artistes, allowing different mediums to come together,” said Deevas Gupta, co-founder of Kinaaya and the director of the play.
Regarding the show, which has had 12 successful performances in Bengaluru, he stated, “Many people perform Manto, but they often stick to his well-known works like Toba Tek Singh, Khol Do, Kali Shalwar, etc. The most common perception of him is that of an explicit writer who provides a raw description of the partition. Ishtihaar aims to bring forward stories by Manto that are less heard of or less performed, stories that aim to bring forth a lighter, more fun side of him that people are not aware of. These are stories that are intelligent, straightforward, and fairly light-hearted, yet they also address social issues. With that in mind, we have created a set of five stories with a mixed flavour.”
What makes this show unique is the self-composed poems that Deevas presents between the stories. “Every time we select a new set, I sit down and write a poem for each story. The poem serves as a connector between the stories and adds a different flavour. It also acts as a catalyst or a transitional moment between the stories. This is a truly unique aspect of our production. When we first tried it in 2019, we were a bit sceptical about how it would be received. However, we realised that a poem between two stories provides a moment of relief for the audience. It gives them time to absorb one story before moving on to the next,” he explained.
Each set of stories is performed with a unique performative design. It is not a simple narration or enactment but an exploration of different performative formats. “Every story demands a different flavour. Some stories are pure narration, while others are performed like scripts. Some are acted out like a drama, and some involve both narration and character performance. So, each story has a distinct personality and is treated differently. It’s not Daastan-goi, though,” Deevas said.
The performances rely entirely on the actors and their use of voice, space, and body language to engage the audience. Props, costumes, and sets are used minimally. “As storytelling goes, it’s more about using your body and voice as instruments. We have stuck to the basics of theatre. It’s the actors’ performances that will transport you to a different era and world,” he added.
The language of the stories has been kept intact, with only a few words being replaced for better understanding. The main challenge, according to Gupta, as with retelling any story, has been in grasping the various perspectives presented in Manto’s writings. “Manto has brilliantly layered these stories, even though they are light-hearted. We have tried to bring out the strongest voices in these writings through our performances,” he noted.
“We are showcasing a side of Manto that is relatively unknown. So, whether you are familiar with Manto or not, you’re in for a delightful surprise. It’s going to be an evening full of fun,” he concluded. Actors in the play include Naman Roy, Prakil Singh, Sabah Batul, Sumeet Borana and Deevas Gupta. Lighting is handled by Kausar Nawaz Afghan.
The show will be staged on Friday, September 29 at 8 pm at Rangbhoomi Spaces & Events, Gachibowli.